What Foods Just Got More Expensive and Which Got Cheaper?

April 11, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought changes to almost every aspect of daily life. Over the past few months, we’ve adapted to social distance, working from home, dropping the kids off at school, maintaining a social life via video chat, and of course, cooking nearly every meal in our own kitchen.

One of the most difficult aspects of feeding ourselves and our families at home is walking through the grocery store aisles – following the CDC recommended safety guidelines, rushing to the grocery store at the crack of dawn in hopes of finding toilet paper or canned beans (what have we become?). We’re professionals now, and food shopping is getting easier as restaurants start to open and take-out options expand.

But even as we’ve grown accustomed to cooking at home on a regular basis, we see a glimmer of hope. For example, the opportunity to improve your cooking skills and the ability to spend more time with your family. One of its biggest attractions, however, is the idea that we will all be saving money.

Eating out is undoubtedly expensive, especially if you do it often. One meal for a family of four at a nice restaurant can cost more than a week’s worth of groceries. However, according to a monthly consumer report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the cost of a few pantry staples has spiked significantly in the past few months. Families walking ham in the meat aisle may have noticed.

The BLS data reports that grocery prices rose an average of 2.6 percent in April (the biggest increase since February 1974) and 1 percent in May. Here’s a look at which food prices rose and which fell last month.

Which food prices went up
Meat saw the largest increase due to shortages caused by COVID-19-related plant shutdowns (and rising demand). Beef and veal prices rose an average of nearly 11 percent, the largest monthly increase on record. Uncooked beef roasts were up 20 percent, and uncooked beef steaks were up nearly 12 percent. The price of pork chops was up 8 percent and the price of whole chickens was up 2 percent.

Prices of dry beans, lentils and peas were up 5 percent.

The cost of ice cream increased by nearly 3 percent.

Breakfast cereals, potatoes, tomatoes and frozen vegetables all increased in price by 1 to 2 percent.

What got cheaper?
Egg prices were down 5% (although they had previously risen 16% in April).

Soup and biscuit prices both fell by more than 3%.

Bread and coffee prices were down 2 percent.

Prices of canned vegetables and citrus fruits were down 1 percent.